Capital of culture in 2018, Unesco by 2015 with its Arab-Norman itinerary, a city that has seen a succession of Kings and Queens, of different dominations that have been assimilated, adapted, metabolised to a melting pot of cultures and tastes still live today: This is Palermo, one of my favourite places, with all its many virtues and its endless contradictions. And a little’ with the instinct, some’ with reason, I will accompany you to discover this amazing city, in an itinerary for those already there was, and for those who have never seen and want to discover it slowly, be dazzled by as it happens to me every time I see her. As theme of this trip (At least five days) I chose the route of the civil and religious buildings protected by UNESCO (nine in all, but here I am speaking of the Cathedral of Cefalù and the Roman bridge of Palermo), all dating from the Norman period, ranging from 1130 to 1194, exceptional example of socio-cultural syncretism that occurred miraculously in Sicily between Western culture, Byzantine and Islamic. Between a mosaic and compression once, I bring in some places of Palermo that you can't miss, Although outside the Arab-Norman trail Unesco. I bring in the markets and try to look at the many products of the island and eating street food, to taste the sweet Sicilian pastry masterpiece of world (read to the end because you will find two videos that are sure to please). And I will bring you in restaurants that still serve typical well done. If you are or if you are in Sicily, have a look to all my TRAVEL ITINERARY SICILIANI for ideas, inspiration and advice on where to eat, what to see and what to buy.
LA ZISA (Unesco) – This castle, originally country house of Kings, and these gardens date from the time of the Norman domination over Sicily. La Zisa derived from Al-aziz (that means the magnificent, the beautiful), It was commissioned by William I and completed by William II in 1175, Thanks to the work of Arabic architects and craftsmen. It was the summer residence of the Norman kings, and today manages to impress the visitor with its size, the richness of its paintings, the splendor of the mosaics on the walls. The Palace is decorated by large ogival vaults in Arabic style (the muqarnas, that'll end up in the ceiling of the Palatine Chapel). Wonderful Fountain Room, where the King received the Court. Stillness and silence of these environments were interrupted only by the noise of the water, While the look was lost along the gardens, dominated by an important sequence of fountains and ponds, until the surrounding countryside. After numerous alterations in the 16th century, the Zisa spent decades of total abandonment, so much so that in 1971 the right wing of the building collapsed. It was then that underwent a major restoration and restored to citizenship in 1991.
SEE: THE CAPUCHIN CATACOMBS – In the same neighborhood of the Zisa is a macabre place and at the same time sacred, only suitable for who is not easily impressed. The Capuchin catacombs born as burial sites of the friars of the convent next to the Church of Santa Maria della Pace. The brothers adapted the existing caves and, When transporting the relics of his brothers from a mass grave in a new place, they noticed that the bodies were mummified naturally. So they decided to place them in the niches and expose them. The first body was that of Fra Silvestro da Gubbio dates back to 16 October 1599. In 1783 the brothers decided to open the catacombs to anyone who wanted and could afford to be embalmed. Were thousands of Notables Sicilians who decided to undergo, Once dead, natural mummification process. The cemetery was closed in 1880, with two exceptions: in 1911 welcomed John Paterniti's body, Vice Consul of the United States; and in 1920 the little Rosalia Lombardo, of two years, known as the world's most beautiful Mummy, that still seems to sleep in his own crib.
EAT: THE CALDUME – For 150 years, in the district of La Zisa and the Catacombs, The Girgenti family runs the place called “By Spirit“. Today we come to the fifth generation, with father and son in the kitchen area. Here, You can find the great classics of Palermo, starting from “bread ca’ meusa” (sandwich with the spleen), that still enjoys a reputation as street food. But mostly they are very rare dishes like “the caldume”, also called “at quarumi”: a poor recipe, a bollito misto made with the entrails of calf, carefully wash and then cooked in vegetable broth (Onion, celery, carrot), before being served with salt and lemon. By Spirit, also tasted the salad Palermo (with bovine jaw, olives and raw vegetables: celery, carrot and onion); Finally, the tongue with tomato sauce, the lattume of tuna fried (lattumiaddi), which is none other than the semen of tuna. All these old recipes can be found at very affordable rates, from 2 to 4 euros, in a decidedly basic but very clean, with a nice and warm service. Among the first courses, Obviously, There is pasta with sardines Palermo style, pens to the norm, a variety of sandwiches with fresh ingredients and even fried fish and pepper mussels.
EAT: THE SICILIAN SWEETS – Strolling through Palermo, an integral part of your trip is sure to be the amazing Sicilian pastry, that is a synthesis of the various dominations that the island has undergone over the centuries, but it is also the legacy of Monsù, the chefs have come in the wake of the French nobles, and the patient work of the nuns in convents. All you have to do is find out all these specialties (continue reading you will find some’ unmissable address): to entice you I only mention the cassata and cannoli (the two most famous desserts), Frost of Macmillan (Watermelon), the riot of colors of marzipan fruits, the cassatelle di ricotta al forno, the ancient “Buccellato”, Savoy cake and the cake Setteveli. You will have much to admire and enjoy, I guarantee.
SEE: LA CALA – When you arrive at Cala di Palermo what first strikes you is the smell in the air. A mixture of seaweed and salt that who was born and raised in Palermo knows. Once the safest landing port area of Palermo, of which represents the oldest settlement, Today the Cove is – especially at night – a place of city nightlife. Starting from Cala, I recommend the area del Foro italico, called Bourbon Hole until 1861, year of the unification of Italy, via Porta Felice, the walls of the bad, the Botanical Garden (one of the richest in species throughout Italy). Under the walls of bad, take a proper break in one of the famous ice cream shops in Palermo: the gelateria Ibrahim, summer offers the legendary ice-scorsonera (the essence of jasmine) and cinnamon. A kind of extract smells and tastes Sicilians. Other must: Watermelon ice cream, served as a time, in the icy metal cups.
EAT: EIGHTH NOTE – For a romantic dinner based on creative cuisine and always careful to exploit raw materials in Sicily, with an eye for unusual combinations and even a little’ risky, I recommend the restaurant “Eighth note“. Located near the waterfront, near the Cala, in a minimalist environment with soft lighting and friendly service and casual, This place costs an average-high with a menu that plays between land and sea: appetizers between 14 and 18 euros, pasta between 17 and 20 euro, rice dishes between 19 and 20 euro, main courses between 10 and 25 euros. Fun and tasty chef's welcome, an amuse bouche consisting of a tartlet with fresh cheese and tuna tartare, accompanied by a shortino of bloody mary. For the first of pasta, guessed the pairing between the Red prawn of Mazara del Vallo and its characteristic “tenerumi” Sicilians (young leaves and softer the zucchini snake). I found it interesting, Although not perfectly balanced, risotto with creamed anchovy, lime and chili chocolate. Among the second: a delicate and pleasant codfish au gratin with cream of fennel and goat cheese landscape; a fun “sfincione di mare”: tomato and onion soup with mixed fish, crustaceans, cheese and oregano, pointing and manages to recreate the scents of the classic focaccia palermitana, call sfincione. In my opinion the most successful dish. The breads are homemade, ancient grains flour Sicilians.
EAT: PASTRY COSTS – Among the best pastry shops in Palermo, the pastry Costs located in the historical site of way Annnunzio, a long avenue of freedom. Between original wooden furniture, from the late 1960s, Here you enter and we run the serious risk of not going away. The laboratory performs in an exemplary way the range of pastries of the ancient tradition of Palermo. Everything is born thanks to Antonino Costa, that in the 1950s, he began work as a pastry chef in the neighborhood bakery, then bring a small workshop in 1960, from which he departed his adventure. Today, the sweet pastry Costs, Thanks to the efforts of his son Riccardo, traveling around the world. And the master Costs, at 83 years (raised in a magnificent), manufactures still by hand the marzipan fruits, one of the symbols of confectionary art Palermo together with cassata. His actions they know about ancient, of experience and passion for this difficult profession. For the greedy, is the Wonderland: Buccellato, cassate, Cannoli, tart watermelon Frost, cake setteveli, fruit jellies, mousse, ricotta and pistachio cake. Note about pastry ice cream Costs, made by hand, with the use of high quality raw materials and without semis.
SEE: LA VUCCIRIA – The Vucciria no longer the market than once, What is already in the medieval period it attracted in the heart of Palermo traders from all around the Mediterranean Sea. A place that was for centuries one of the symbols of the city. Today little remains of the Vucciria. Again until 15 years ago, I remember it as a vibrant market, full of meat stalls, fish, vegetables, fried food shops and small shops where you could find some’ of all. The Vucciria of the third millennium is instead a place of nightlife, that fills up with tourists and locals looking for street food and fun. I recommend you visit anyway the Vucciria of day, to watch the palaces now partly abandoned but also subject to commercial and residential renovations, admire the fountain of Garraffello and imagine to hear coarse voices again (Hence the name Vucciria) of the vendors that incited to purchase the goods. Although the Vucciria painted by Renato Guttuso has now disappeared, the neighborhood has a nostalgic appeal is timeless.
THE CATHEDRAL (Unesco) – The Cathedral of Palermo is one of the Arab-Norman monuments which, at sight, more surprise and fascinate. Jewel of the late 12th century, It was built during the reign of Wilhelm II after victory over the Arabs, on the basis of an existing Islamic mosque. In the aisle of this nerve centre of Christianity in southern Italy are buried Kings and emperors Normans and Swabians: Roger II, that created the Kingdom of Sicily in 1130; Constance of Altavilla Empress and Henry VI, parents of Frederick II, King and Emperor, known as “stupor mundi”, buried himself in Palermo. Here are also the relics of Santa Rosalia, patroness of Palermo. The Arab-Norman period is known for the cultural syncretism that did live together with Muslims, the Byzantines, Latins, Jews, Lombardi and French. Is’ also for this reason that the three cathedrals of Palermo, Monreale and Cefalù are part of the Unesco heritage: a Union of disparate styles that, through architecture, they represented a Union of communities and the prototype of the birth of civilization Mediterranean-modern European.
SEE: QUATTRO CANTI – The four corners represent the crossroads of Palermo and mark the intersection of Via Maqueda and Via Vittorio Emanuele: There are four buildings that surround a octagonal square, meeting point of the four quarters of Palermo: Kalsa, Lodge, Boss and hotel services;. Impressive, wonderful and decadent, the four corners are adorned each with a fountain. The four fountains represent the ancient rivers that bathed Palermo: Papireto, Kemonia, Oreto and Pannaria. Adorned by Four Seasons, benefit today not so much of an external renovation, How to become available within them. A stone's throw from Quattro Canti, along the via Maqueda, Piazza Pretoria, also known as Piazza della Vergogna, due to the many naked statues that decorate the magnificent fountain in white Carrara marble, dating back to 1500 and the sculptor Francesco Camilliani. The shame, According to legend, would be proven by the nuns who lived inside the nearby Convent of cloistered nuns to see nude statues. On the same square facing the seventeenth-century Church of Santa Caterina, the fifteenth-century Palazzo Pretorio (the seat of the municipality of Palermo) and some magnificent palaces.
EAT: THE SFINCIONE – The Sicilian pizza is one of the symbols of Palermo: a rather high, topped with a spicy tomato-based sauce, onions, anchovies and completed with cheese and fresh oregano. Its scent is amazing. I advise you to taste it directly from sellers who push their carts along the streets of the historic centre; the Capo market, the market of Ballarò and Vucciria market. In these markets, You can also try other street food of Palermo, that vary with the seasons: in summer, the corn boiled in large cauldrons, in winter the artichokes or potatoes, or the onions cooked in the oven or in the ashes. If you are, how I wish, curious about food, You can also buy local products like snails, Capers, the famous tomato concentrate which is sold in paste, Red creamy mounds arranged in.
SEE: THE CHURCH OF JESUS’ – Among the many churches in Palermo, I advise you not to lose Church of the Gesù, also known as “Casa Professa”: built in 1500 in a sumptuous Sicilian baroque style, was intended to represent the importance of the Jesuit order. The result is a church entirely covered by polychrome, marble sculptures, marble reliefs depicting putti, little angels, fruit baskets, exotic birds and animals. Partially destroyed during World War II, It was rebuilt and today retains intact the extraordinary charm of a living work of art.
MARTORANA and SAN CATALDO (Unesco) – The Church of Santa Maria dell'ammiraglio, that the of Palermo ones call “La Martorana” and the Church of San Cataldo are part of the Unesco heritage, that includes the Arab-Norman itinerary. These are two jewels in the Centre, behind Piazza Pretoria, and were built between 1100 and 1200. La Martorana underwent a reconstruction in the Baroque period that was partly destroyed in the late 19th century. Its façade, then, does not prepare the visitor to the charm that lies inside. The Church is a jewel of Byzantine art, with a Greek cross and slender columns with ogival arches. Everything is decorated with gold mosaics, made by maestranze bizantine in 1100. The dome is dominated by the famous “Christ seated blessing”. Also the beautiful polychrome mosaic floor intact. Today, La Martorana belongs to the Eparchy of Piana degli Albanesi and officiates masses according to the Greek-Byzantine rite. Next, piazza Bellini, There is the Church of San Cataldo, with its characteristic pink domes. The building draws clearly inspired by Moorish motifs typical of the era and. inside, is severe and unadorned. The lights that filter light columns, the capitals and the beautiful original floor, marble slab decorated with marquetry.
SEE AND EAT: MARKET OF BALLARO’ – Lapsed the Vucciria, that market has become the most famous Ballarò Palermo Centre. A short walk from the main railway station and not far from the via Maqueda, Sicilian spirit here is still lively and you can hear your salespeople yell loudly among a thousand colors of fruits and vegetables. The stalls of vegetables, meats, cheese and fish run along streets lined with noble buildings partly crumbling and splendid facades of baroque churches. Then, My advice is: do not look only to foods on the shelves but lift your eyes towards what is above the market.
Ballarò is not proposing only fresh raw materials, but lots of food ready: panelle, cazzilli (potato croquettes), Rice pancakes, bread with spleen (PANI ca to’ meusa), up to the onions in the oven, the seafood salad, at sarde a beccafico, and the fried fish. During a trip to Palermo the stage to the ballaro market is a must to really get in the colorful Sicilian soul. After 19.30, the stalls close and open the local nightlife offering cocktails, Sicilian wines, typical dishes and appetizers.
PORTA NUOVA – Along the Corso Calatafimi opens the famous Porta Nuova, main entrance to the city of Palermo in medieval times. A door that has undergone several changes (He was also struck and damaged by lightning) And that, in its current form, dates back to 1669. Has two different facades: a look at the historical centre of Palermo, side Cathedral, the other looks in the direction of Monreale and imposing 4 giants who support it are the Turks defeated. The most beautiful, in my opinion, is the dome, covered with coloured tiles and surmounted by an eagle with spread wings, symbol of Palermo.
PALAZZO DEI NORMANNI (Unesco) – The Eagle is the symbol of the masterpiece that is only a few steps away from Porta Nuova, another stop on the itinerary Unesco Arab-Norman: the Palazzo dei Normanni, formerly the Royal Palace of King the Swabians and Normans, today institutional seat of the Sicilian region. A building that, Despite internal and external alterations, is still extraordinary synthesis of cultural and artistic vision of the Norman dynasty. The foundation stone was laid in 1072, the Palace of the Eagles hosted the illuminati Roger II, William I, William II and Frederick II of Swabia. During the reign of Frederick II, from this Palace (also called Palazzo d'Orleans), took off the Sicilian School of poetry. Starting in the 16th century it became the seat of Spanish governors, the viceroy. After the Spanish arrived the Bourbon Kings. Everyone wanted to change the Palace and take you inside and outside a p0′ of their own culture and their own architectural style, until it becomes like today we can admire it.
CAPPELLA PALATINA (Unesco) – Beyond the wonderful rooms of the Royal Palace, including the sala di Ruggero II and Duke of Montalto, within this Palace the real treasure is the Cappella Palatina. Commissioned by Roger II of hauteville., It was built in 1130; today its façade is no longer visible because it incorporated into the structure of the building, but inside is a dazzling succession of Byzantine mosaics in gold and bright colors. The Chapel is the testimony of coexistence between the Latin Church and the Greek Church, between the West and the East. The ceiling is entirely Islamic style (muqarnas, as the Ziza), the floor follows Arabic geometry, as well as many decorative elements (as the stylized palmette), but the mosaics are Byzantine and scenes that tell are Christian. Christ pantocrator, overlooking the apse, It is among the world's most famous icons of Jesus. At the time of Roger II of Sicily the rites were officiated in Greek and Latin.
EAT: PASTRY HAT – After you have satisfied your soul and your eyes with the beauty of the Palace Chapel and the Palazzo dei Normanni, It's time to satiate even the stomach. From the architectural splendour it then goes to the Sicilian pastry. The pastry Hat is an address history: founded by master Salvatore, It is now run by his son John. Here the bakery is modern but also traditional, with the inevitable cassate, baked cassata, Savoy cake, frosts of watermelon, the cannoli, the buccellati, the marzipan fruits so vivid as to seem real. From hat is also for ice cream and ice-blended coffee with fresh cream, worth a taste. By the way Column Route depart all sweets to each other Via Garzilli. Hat is also our chocolate shop, with hand made Pralines.
EAT: FOCACCERIA SAN FRANCESCO – L’Antica Focacceria San Francesco (founded in 1834), albeit a little’ changed over the years (including the ownership, After the partnership with Feltrinelli by 2013, and kept in mind the opening of numerous franchises), stay in the historical site of Palermo a meeting place for citizens and tourists wanting to eat a simple sandwich with panelle, the famous bread ca’ meusa, or sit and enjoy a local dish like Eggplant rolls, pasta with sardines, the caponata. The quality of the proposal is still good, Thanks to a careful selection of suppliers and raw materials, Although there are some burrs (for example on the arancine, I wouldn't advise). Among the things that in my opinion deserve a taste sarde a beccafico, the sandwich with the panelle, the Ratatouille and pasta with sardines. How well do not miss the preparation and filling of bread with spleen, cooked in large pots and accompanied, If you like, fresh ricotta.
SAN GIOVANNI DEGLI EREMITI (Unesco) – The Norman King Roger II was responsible for the construction of Chiesa di San Giovanni degli Eremiti, Another Unesco jewelry. The Church, even in this case, built in the early 1100, It was part of a monastery of which remains intact the beautiful and peaceful cloister. Built on the basis of architectural models of Islamic clear imprint, is known for its five domes that stand out against the turquoise sky of Palermo and that have become a symbol of the city. Inside is very simple, Spartan: originally frescoed walls of which remain today some tracks. Its cloister, rectangular, with double row of columns and arches, It is still today a Mediterranean garden full of citrus, laurels, olive trees, that invites to meditation and calmness. For me a wonderful place.
THE CATHEDRAL OF MONREALE (Unesco) – Back to the foresight and passion for the art of Wilhelm II of Altavilla stately we the The Cathedral of Monreale, dedicated to Santa Maria La Nova, and a Unesco World Heritage site. Start your visit by turning all the way around the Church, to watch the exterior façade rich of arches in ogive and geometric decorations rounds. Seeing the beautiful portal on the façade of the Cathedral, overlooking a square Mediterranean colours and shapes and the narrow streets of the town of Monreale. Also worth seeing are the tombs of the great Norman kings: William I, William II, Margaret of Navarre. Around this monument there are shops of handmade pottery and small places to cool off with a snow cone or an iced tea.
The Cathedral contains the largest Byzantine mosaic in the world after that of Saint Sophia in Istanbul. It is a complex composed of the Church aisles, dominated by Jesus pantocrator and divided by two rows of nine columns of grey granite. Look up and admire the polychromatic wood ceiling, rich in gilt and decorations, they are just a foretaste of Byzantine mosaics, in 6,400 square meters, tell the story of man, from creation to the last judgement. In addition to the mosaics there are also geometric mosaic decorations along the lower parts of the walls and the capitals from woven leaves. Find out about opening hours, because when the mass you can not enter and, in summer, the Cathedral is open only from 8 to 12.
The part that I love most of the Cathedral of Monreale is the Benedictine cloister: a huge cloister, a square plan (nearly fifty meters per side), dominated by hundreds of slender columns decorated in bas-relief or mosaic tiles with gold and marble, culminating in capitals all differ from each other, as well as all different are the bases of the columns. The figures carved into the marble tell many different stories: the life of the monks, businesses of Wilhelm II, reasons its classic era and Bible stories. In one of the four corners there is a fountain from which, Islamic style, thin jets of water escaping from human and leonine figures. Walking slowly along the four sides of the cloister to admire the great skill of the craftsmen who created this masterpiece and take your time to breathe a little’ of that unreal atmosphere of peace and beauty.
EAT: BUATTA, KITCHEN COMMONER – If you have time for another typical restaurant in Palermo, choose Buatta, Kitchen Man Of Valour,in: housed in an old suitcases, decorated with cast iron columns and a bizarre tile floor, This restaurant is well worth a visit. I refer you to review published a few days ago where you will find the menu, the prices and the story of my experience from Buatta.
SEE AND EAT: SAN LORENZO MARKET – Among the innovations of recent years Palermo can boast a modern market hall Eataly, where is the best Sicilian products, between slow food and Dop and Igp products. To San Lorenzo market You can buy it and at the same time taste. Over 2800 references, a total of 250 small suppliers: extra virgin olive oil, fresh fruit, canned, jams, cold cuts, bread, Meat, wine and sweets. Some are familiar products, others come from small businesses, in this way they have the opportunity to make themselves known.
In addition to the grocery store, Obviously with higher prices than a regular supermarket, You can also spend some’ of time together enjoying a snow cone, an ice cream or dessert of pastry in the area managed by Brioscia, or have lunch at one of the restaurants and bistros inside. The San Lorenzo market is lively space: organise cookery, tastings, meetings and shows. It is located near the Parco della Favorita.
SEE: THE PALAZZINA CINESE – Recently refurbished and reopened to the public, worth a visit Casina Chinese, inside the Real Favorita Park. Created at the behest of the Bourbon Kings (Ferdinand IV and his wife Maria Carolina) at the end of the 18th century, It was the summer residence of the rulers. Is’ been built following the love of royalty for exoticism and, in particular, for Chinoiserie. Is’ a little gem, attention to every detail, that detail draws China and nature, with a pagoda at wallpapers, all this mixed with the taste of French chandeliers and with the love of Islamic origin for geometric patterns.
If you still have a few hours of time, or because you are a workaholic or because you love the sea, You can hop over to Mondello, the beach of palermitani. The best way to get to Mondello is the one fronting the Favorita Park, studded gradually approaching the sea wonderful villas, built between the 1940s and 1970s in many different styles (even a Tyrolean almost). Dominated by Art Nouveau bathhouse built in 1912, This stretch of coastline is one of the most beautiful sea colours for each, with clear water between turquoise and green.
Obviously this does not exhaust the infinite wonders of Palermo: There is still so much to say and to see. Even for me that I know well. I would however that this article was, at least for some of you, a cue to start falling in love with this amazing city.
HOW TO MAKE SICILIAN CASSATA (Thank you for your cooperation the bakery Costs)
HOW TO MAKE MARZIPAN FRUITS (Thank you for your cooperation the bakery Costs)